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The can't-miss films from those in the know

Fishtank premieres at TIFF 2009.

It's an elusive thing, that frisson that makes a film a must-see at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it's made even harder to grasp by the sheer number of choices on the table.

Jon Amiel's Creation has had the de facto buzz of an opening-night film, heightened this year because of TIFF's lack of Canadiana. Chloe has drawn the expected attention of Atom Egoyan's legion of admirers. And Lars von Trier's Antichrist has borne the simultaneous burden and boon that is controversy.

But to help find where the broader buzz lies, we asked some industry insiders about the titles they are most excited about seeing at TIFF 2009:

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President and founder of Canadian film distributor Mongrel Media

Soul Kitchen: "It's by [German director]Fatih Akin. We have distributed many of his other films … and he's an extremely talented filmmaker and an amazing guy. It's supposed to be a comedy, and that should be an interesting departure for him."

Women Without Men: "I believe [director]Shirin Neshat has been working on this film for several years now, and the images I've seen are just absolutely outstanding. I can't wait to see this film because I think it's going to be a visual feast."


Executive director of Telefilm Canada

Chloe: "A film that combines sexuality, desire and repressed emotions, themes not unfamiliar to Atom, which he always treats with subtle and sardonic humour; and also his 1991 classic The Adjuster - selected as one of the best Canadian films ever made."

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Wild Grass: "Directed by Alain Resnais, whose films, beginning with Hiroshima Mon Amour in 1959, define the term 'master of the cinema.' Obligatory viewing for any past or present student of cinema."

Broken Embraces : "Director Pedro Almodovar continues the dance with the beautiful and increasingly masterful actress Penelope Cruz. It's the stylistic range of his films from the brash and bold Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown to the very carefully drawn and powerful Talk to Her that most intrigues me. What next?"

Mao's Last Dancer : "Bruce Beresford was a leading force behind the Wave of New Australian Cinema in the late seventies and eighties with seminal films such as Breaker Morant (1980). … His latest film appears to posses all the elements necessary to engage and entertain - a powerful story, and a central character driven to succeed against insurmountable odds."


Founder and president of Strada Films and chair of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association

Cairo Time : "I liked Ruba Nadda's first film, and I think she's great with characters. I think a lead blond woman character in Egypt in these times - she's very much of our time. I hear it's a beautiful film."

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J'ai tué ma mère: "It's a fresh, original voice, and the performances are stunning. I always love it in a year of Canadian films where there aren't all of the recognizable names out. I think this year is particularly exciting because there are some fresh, new voices that people haven't heard from."


International programmer at TIFF

Solomon Kane: "I'm not much of a Midnight Madness person, but I do love adventurous, visually fantastical films, and everything that I've heard about this is that that's what that is."

Ong Bak 2: "Because of Tony Jaa, and because my first Midnight Madness movie ever was Ong-Bak . ... I was very skeptical [back then]and I got blown away by the launch of this new, amazing Thai film star."

Valhalla Rising: "Because I love these big, historical epics that have big, burly men fighting, frankly. This one, more importantly, has an interesting storyline about the period of transition between the old Norse gods and the newer Christian religion."

The Traveller: "There's this whole interesting new wave of filmmaking coming out of the Middle East that I think is really great."

Turtle: The Incredible Journey: "[TIFF documentary programmer]Thom Powers … just raved about this, and for Thom Powers - who is the king of all doc programmers - to rave about this means something. So I'm dying to see it."


Former owner of Pages Books & Magazines, editor of POV Magazine

The Time That Remains: "It would be a notable film in any case, given that it's a new work by Palestine's pre-eminent filmmaker, Elia Suleiman. But it's more than that: viciously funny, gorgeously shot, and intensely moving."

Petropolis: "A sumptuously shot aerial view of an ecological disaster, the Alberta tar sands. Using footage he created looking downward from a helicopter, Peter Mettler has created his own plaintive moving-image version of photographer Ed Burtynsky's politically engaging work."

Defendor: "A surprising and moving account of a mentally challenged man (Woody Harrelson) who dons superhero garb to fight corrupt adults who control a world he can't comprehend."

L'enfer de Henri-Georges Clouzot: "It documents the 'hell' the famous French Hitchcockian suspense director Clouzot encountered while trying to make a marital thriller in the mid-sixties, when his career was on the decline, using never-before-seen archival footage from the film, which was abandoned before completion."


Academy Award-nominated Canadian director and screenwriter whose film Heaven on Earth screened at last year's festival

An Education: "Because I've been hearing great things about it since Sundance."

The White Ribbon: "Because I think [Michael]Haneke is brilliant."

The Joneses: "Because many moons ago I read the script and thought it was exceptionally clever."

Fish Tank: "Because a female inheritor to Ken Loach is highly intriguing."


Executive director of the Canadian Film Centre

The Trotsky : "Trotsky - love him, hate him, adore him, defile him - he's symbolic to a certain period of our culture. And I think Jacob Tierney is a really, really big talent. I think this could be very funny, making Trotsky into a comedy."

Wake in Fright: "It's made by a very young Ted Kotcheff, which could be interesting."


Canadian documentary filmmaker whose latest film, Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould , is appearing at TIFF this year

Creation : "I've read a lot about Charles Darwin and been to the Galapagos. … I've been always entranced by him since I was a little boy - an adventurer, discoverer of new worlds. It's a great story. I don't think it can fail."


International programmer at TIFF

Whip It: "The subject matter, but [also]the fact that it's directed by Drew Barrymore. I think she's a really interesting personality and I'd like to see how her directorial debut is. And the roller-derby aspect is fascinating."

Agora: "A film about Hypatia and the library of Alexandria. I just think the topic is fascinating, and the discussion of the conflict between the pagans and the Christians and kind of how he's comparing it to the conflicts in the present day."

[Rec]2: "I loved [Rec]/i> , which was a zombie movie, and I'd just like to see how they're going to carry that forward."


Former executive director of TIFF

Fish Tank: "From the electric Andrea Arnold, whose cliffhanger of a film introduces us into working-class Britain and the world of an alluring but maddening and very angry 15-year-old girl lashing out at just about everything, the film is a real roller-coaster ride of emotions from start to finish - a modern-day The Perils of Pauline ."

Hotel Atlantico : "By Suzana Amaral, who at 77 is one of the most vibrant and relevant contemporary directors in Latin America. Features a Lynchian road trip through Brazil complete with popcorn sex in priestly garb."

The Good Heart: "By Dagur Kari, a wonderful but not-so-known director."

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